Ely branch of travel firm set to avoid axe

THE Ely branch of the Thomas Cook travel group will NOT be closed, it was confirmed this week, despite the firm unveiling plans to axe 200 stores nationwide.

The company, which has 1,300 shops across the UK, announced last week that 661 staff in 115 stores up and down the country were facing the axe as announcements about branch closures were made.

According to a spokesman however, the Ely branch, on Market Street, would be unaffected by the closures and would remain open for business as usual.

The 170-year-old travel agency racked up losses of �398m after a year in which the slump in consumer confidence and the Arab Spring wrecked demand for its package holidays.

It has set out a turnaround plan for the UK business, including focusing on fewer and better quality hotels and a drive for more online bookings.

It will close 200 loss-making stores over the next two years as their leases expire – 125 more than previously announced – after completing a recent merger with the Co-op’s high street travel arm.

Interim chief executive Sam Weihagen said: “There’s no silver bullet to turning around the UK business but I’m confident that the measures will improve the profitability in years to come.

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“Thomas Cook is a very strong brand in the UK and it has enormous possibilities to make sure it becomes a profitable business.”

Mr Weihagen went on to warn that winter bookings were down 11pc in the UK, and that trading would come under more pressure in the first half of 2012 as the global economic slowdown rumbled on.